The word “mindfulness” is defined by Webster’s Online Dictionary as the “trait of staying aware of or paying close attention to.” The concept of mindfulness actually stems from Buddhist psychology, which referenced the concept more than 2,500 years ago and is defined as “awareness, circumspection, discernment, and retention.” (Black, D.S. 2011. A brief definition of mindfulness. Mindfulness Research Guide. Accessed from www.mindfulexperience.org.)
In common language, we might say that mindfulness is about living in the present. Focusing on the present moment can be very helpful in relieving symptoms of depression such as distorted thinking, difficulty concentrating and forgetfulness. Through practicing mindfulness, individuals can learn to experience thoughts and emotions without getting carried away by them. Instead of being controlled by negative thoughts, one can learn to allow the thoughts to come and go by practicing mindfulness.
One way to practice mindfulness is by meditating. Try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes per day to meditate. Start by sitting in a comfortable position and focusing your attention on your breath. Concentrate on breathing slowly and noticing the physical sensations you experience. If you find that your mind wanders to other things, remind yourself that this is normal and simply refocus your attention back to your breath.
Mindfulness can also be practiced throughout your daily activities. While doing something routine such as eating, brushing your teeth or washing dishes, try focusing on your sensations of sight, taste, touch and smell. If you find your mind wandering to the past or the future, simply bring your attention back to the present moment.
Mindfulness is an important skill to have, especially for those suffering from depression. By focusing on the present moment, individuals are able to recognize thoughts and behaviors that contribute to their depression.
For additional readings about mindfulness, check out these books by Jon Kabat-Zinn:
- “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress”
- “Coming to Our Senses: Healing Ourselves Through Mindfulness”
- “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life”